Home > Life, Writing and Poetry > Where Does Your Writing History Begin?

Where Does Your Writing History Begin?

I’ve been going through a couple of books of family history. Until you’ve done this, you can’t realize just how convoluted a timeline can be for one small group of people.

If you want to structure a family tree for a novel of high fantasy, take the opportunity to look into your own family tree and its related history. You will find more complexity, more interest, more simple astonishment than you’ve ever imagined.

There may be heroes and villains, widows and orphans, spinsters and bachelors. Much of plot and backstory can be gleaned for use in stories. I found much of Alexander Hamilton’s personal family history that crossed into a family that married into mine less than thirty years ago. I found those of family who escaped Andersonville after the sinking of the Sultana. I found John Ross, leader of the Cherokee, who was forced to take his people on the Trail of Tears. His family had married into my grandmother’s line in the late seventeenth century.

So much information that I’d never anticipated or imagined. Does this knowledge help me know who I am?  Unforturnately, it only tells me what kind of family preceded me into this world.

I am myself, made of my own history. I can, however, marvel at who came before me and sit in wonder  reading of their lives.

I can also utilize the stories given to enliven pieces that I write, to give histories to characters, to form a nucleus for a stronger plotline.

Look deep into your own histories. And if you don’t want to endanger your own family’s secrets, go to a local historical society and start going through clippings and diaries. You’re bound to find something to spark your interest. I talk to the oldsters in the area who remember the stories their grandpappy used to tell. I doubt you’d be disappointed if you chose to do the same.

Enjoy the hunt. Kernels of potential stories abound amid those marriage and death records or diary entries. If nothing else, you’ll gather a double handful of great character names, free for the asking.And if you can’t get into these type of material for wordsmith fodder, find yourself an old cemetary, one that’s at least 200 years old. Take the time to read the headstones, smell the flowers and shrubs planted there, if it’s a summer visit. Or, if you’re looking for a more atmospheric piece for setting or mood, go to this old resting place during the rain or after a few inches of snow has fallen. Your perceptions will shift and your mental images will drive themselves down a different road. Be prepared for your imagination to take over.

So, back to the original question. Where does your writing history begin? That’s for you to decide. My history began early in my life, though none took it seriously. I didn’t know until just recently that several on my father’s side of the family did the same thing at various times throughout their lives. I now know that I’m not quite so different as I imagined. Maybe you aren’t either. Only you can find out for sure for yourself.

A bientot,


Categories: Life, Writing and Poetry
  1. December 11, 2009 at 8:04 am

    What a great question, Clauds!

    As a 50% Arab, 25% Persian, 25% Turkish person my family history has taken interesting turns. Yet, through an era of FEAR, none wants to share the familial connection.


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